South African anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada dies

Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada, whose life was dedicated to the freedom struggle of the black masses in South Africa, has died after a brief illness at the age of 87.

Along with Nelson Mandela, Kathrada was among eight African National Congress (ANC) activists sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for attempting to topple the white minority regime. He would subsequently spend 26 years in jail.

Kathrada was born in 1929 in Schweizer-Reneke to parents from Lachpur, India. At the age of 12, Kathrada joined the Young Communist League, where he first met Nelson Mandela.

His political involvement saw him arrested numerous times in the 1950s. The eventual arrest of the majority of the ANC leadership in 1963 saw Kathrada, Nelson Mandela and numerous others sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1985 Mandela, Kathrada and numerous other political prisoners were offered freedom by South Africa’s then-president, PW Botha, if they promised to renounce political activity. They rejected these conditions and posed their own conditions of acceptance: the regime must renounce violence first; it must dismantle Apartheid; it must un-ban the ANC; it must free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled for their opposition to Apartheid; and it must guarantee free political activity.

Finally, on 15 October 1989, Kathrada was released from prison. With the un-banning of the ANC, Kathrada was elected to the party’s National Executive committee in 1991 and made head of public relations.

In 1994 he was elected a Member of Parliament after the ANC won the country’s first democratic elections. In 1997 he resigned from the NEC, and chose not to stand for Parliament in the 1999 election.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is his legacy to the nation. It hosts regular events and programmes focused on Kathrada’s deepest areas of concern, including youth affairs, non-racialism, and issues around the struggle of the Palestinian people.

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